I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mystery of the B'racha:A Hebrew Catholic Understanding

What does the term 'mitzvot mean? It includes the concepts of commandments and good deeds. In fact mitzvot are 'human acts' that become sanctified through being made in union with the Divine Will and Purpose of God. It is through making a blessing (b'racha) and performing these acts that these sanctified individual acts open a channel with the Divine. Rabbi Aaron Twerski in the comprehensive work entitled "The Laws of the B'rachos" states "The b'racha thus creates a new reality - one in which the blessings from the Infinite Source may descend upon the one who has uttered the b'racha... we never...say...a b'racha...it is always...make a b'racha...the utterance of a b'racha is a creative act...By testifying to our utter dependence upon God, we establish the necessary condition for blessing to flow from infinite God to mortal man." 'Baruch ata' is translated as 'Blessed are you' but according to many rabbis the most correct meaning is 'You are the source of all blessing'. The first half of the blessing is in the first person and acknowledges the Divine Presence. The second part of the blessing is in the third person and acknowledges the hidden Divine Will in the act to be performed or appreciated. Rabbi Twerski states: "When we... attribute acts and motivation to His Divine Will, we move from acknowledging his presence to describing His essence...it is important that we not delude ourselves into believing that we are capable of describing the Divine essence. The b'racha shifts to the more distant and removed third person to indicate that we understand that such description is beyond capability... We make no pretense about our abilities to penetrate the Divine Mystery."

Rabbi Aaron Twerski

Rabbi Twerski perceives the practice of observing brachot and mitzvot as a key to devekut (the mystical union or cleaving of the soul to God). R. Twerski: "B'rachos play a vital role in hallowing the ordinary and the mundane by declaring that Godliness is relevant to all that we do...we are performing God's mitzvos and we are learning His Torah...Observance of mitzvos without consciously associating that observance to the Divine Will is not only unpalatable but ultimately self -defeating. For the goal of all creation is the clinging of man to Godliness...The recitation of b'rachos thus becomes an important vehicle for a constant and unrelenting reminder that our lives are sanctified unto God, that all our acts can be imbued with holiness..". The Divine Will revealed to the servant of God Luisa Piccarreta: "As often as a soul enters into Divine Will to pray, work, love, or to do anything else, it opens many paths between the Creator and the creature. The Divinity seeing that the creature is coming to It, it opens up paths in order to meet Its creature. In this encounter, the creature imitates the virtues of its Creator, absorbs into itself Divine Life, and enters more fully into the eternal secrets of the Supreme Will...That is how in my Will, the creature approaches likeness to Me, how it realizes my designs and how it fulfills the purpose of Creation." The modern Catholic mystics who are exemplars of living in the Divine Will are directing us to a fresh evaluation of Jesus statement that he came not to abolish the Torah but to bring it to its goal (telos). The Jewish people were given mitzvot to help them attain to this restoration of the sanctity that was lost at the fall. The Torah revealed the way to sanctity/holiness through observance of mitzvot by opening a channel to Divine Grace and Life. During the Old Testament times before the First Coming of the Messiah in the flesh the grace to follow the Divine Will was given to the Jewish people in the merits of the coming Messiah. With the advent of the redemption all nations were offered the grace to not only follow the Divine Will but to unite with the Divine Will in performing our acts. While the Jewish people already had a God-given culture in which its acts were focused towards sanctity, the Gentiles were given a way to sanctify all the acts in their own cultures. Since 1889 with the giving to Luisa Piccarreta the gift of 'Living in the Divine Will' in continuous eternal mode, all men can now observe the mitzvot (acts) Dwelling in Divine Will - so that our acts are divinised and become the acts of God himself.

Jesus in the Gospels opposed a legalistic and mundane interpretation of Torah and mitzvot, as he wished the Jewish people to focus on the goal of Torah and mitzvot, which was the call to holiness. A theology that downgrades the centrality of Torah and mitzvot is a mistaken path. In the Messiah we enter into the depths of the Divine Will and all acts become the single Act of creation. Father Joseph Iannuzzi in his book "The Splendour of Creation" states: "Based on the approved writings of the mystics, to enter God's eternal activity the soul must acknowledge God's Presence, invite his activity and desire to remain faithful to his will in all things." The making of a b'racha is a very little way to do this. In a sense the Holy Spirit has prepared Judaism with all the pieces of the machinery in readiness for the Ingrafting. When the Jews are given the grace of the knowledge of the identity of the Messiah as King of the Kingdom of the Divine Will - all will be unified and the machinery will come together bringing 'life from the dead' to all creation. Judaism will enter the Church and it will gain access into the grace of living in the divine Will in a continuous eternal mode- higher than the human and divine modes discussed by St Teresa of Avila and others. In order to attain to this gift Judaism must accept Yeshuah as the Messiah and his mikvah (baptism) in order to begin this process leading to 'Living in the Divine Will in eternal mode' on Earth as they do in Heaven. A miracle of God and the witness of the new saints of the Roman Church who dwell in Divine Will in the eternal mode, will lead to this ingrafting of the Jews and Judaism into the Church.

The Jewish practice of making a b'racha is a Jewish 'little way' or 'opus dei'(work of God). The 'blessings' fall into three main categories. Each blessed act has a unique way or power of refining the soul leading to its goal of holiness. The first category of blessings are the 'Blessings of Enjoyment' such as the blessings on food and drink. The second group are the 'Blessings made over mitzvot' such as those made on Tefillin, tzitzis, etc. The third group are 'Blessings of thanksgiving and praise'. All three categories of blessings acknowledge the Divine Will as the Divine Presence. This, in a sense, is the Will as Noun - I am that I am. The second part of the blessings acknowledges the Will in act (Divine Volition) as the verb of will.

Mystical Judaism speaks of the three heads of the Divine Will. One is the head of desire/pleasure (taanug) which is the desire of the Divine Will to Create; the second is the head of the will/favour (ratzon) which is the will or act of the Divine Will to Create; the third head is the head of faith/trust (emunah) which is the source of the Divine will to Create. The 'Blessings of Enjoyment' (birchot ha'nehenim) acknowledge the desire (taanug) of the Divine will to create blessings for man. The blessings over mitzvot ( birchot ha-mitzvot)acknowledge the will in Act of the Divine Will in providing ways for man to become like God; for him to grow in sanctity. The 'blessings of thanksgiving and praise' (birchot ha'hoda'ah v'ha'shevah) acknowledge the soul's faith and trust in the Divine Will as the source of all blessings.

Over many foods the 'shehakol' blessing is recited "shehekol n'hiyeh b'dvaro" (all was created by His Word) revealing the mystery of creation by, in and through the divine Word. The 'borei' (brings forth)blessings acknowledge the hidden Divine Will in all God's creation - which is given for man. The 'birchot ha mitzvot state 'who is sanctified by His mitzvot' revealing that observances of mitzvot are a way of holiness not a means to salvation. Salvation is a free gift in the Messiah.

However the making of the b'racha can be at three different levels of heart intention (kavanah). The first level of kavanah is the b'racha made as a blessing on our human act done in our own human way. The second level of kavanah is to make the b'racha in union with the Messiah so that we do our act with God beside us. This has some redemptive and sanctifying value. The third kavanah which is made in Divine Will is to intend that God does the act in us - this divinises our act which then not only has redemptive value but allows the Divine Will to reign in the Act. Thus it has redemptive and sanctifying merit for all souls of the past, present and future. This is a great form of tikkun (reparation). Rabbi Twerski states; "...combining the proper kavana (intent) while reciting the b'racha assures that the mitzvah will be performed in its fullness...".

The Catholic Jew who is desiring to live in Divine Will may either verbalise or silently intend a deeper penetration of the b'racha by adding "Eat in my eating, Lord" "Drink in my drinking" "Light in my lighting" Pray in my praying" "Praise in my praising" etc. He may also unite with the Divine Will in the created thing (such as the bread, wine etc) and sing or chant a 'I bless you, I love you, I praise you, I adore you' on behalf and as the voice of the created thing and all creation. In this way the person living in Divine Will becomes the voice for all creatures to return the glory of the Divine Will in all things to its source. This gives God the glory that he is due - his own glory given back to him. The vessel of his glory is his immaculate Mother in Eternity united to all those who live in Divine Will in a continuous eternal mode. Rabbi Twerski says: "The spiritual aspect of nature is hidden from the naked eye and requires the statement of man to bring it to the fore. The b'racha serves as a daily revelation of the spirituality that inheres in nature. When the Chassidic masters speak of elevating the 'holy sparks' by making a b'racha, they refer, in part, to the role of man in revealing the glory of Hashem which is part of creation." Rabbi Zevi Elimelekh of Dinov states: " However, if the eating is done...to extract and elevate the holy sparks in the food...then he can create yihudim (unificiations) with his prayer. This is equally true of all mundane matters, whether plowing or sowing or reaping...".

In a Catholic Jewish perspective, the making of a b'racha is an acknowledgment of the Eucharistic dimension of God's Real Presence and an acknowledgment of the Marian dimension as the vessel that contains the light of the Divine Will in all things. The understanding of the b'racha as a little channel of access to Divine Grace and Life directs us to the seven great channels of Divine Grace and Life we call the seven sacraments or mysteries of the New Covenant. In fact in these seven Great Mysteries we use Christian b'rachot - such as the blessings over the bread and wine in the Eucharist - the 'bless me , Father' of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). The blessings on the water, candles, oil etc in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and so on.

Judaism also teaches that one should sanctify one's eating by making a b'racha both before and after eating. Universal Catholic custom also sanctifies our eating by making a prayer of thanks before and after eating. Jewish food laws (given by God himself)is a Jewish way of sanctity in the area of eating by developing self-discipline and self control, and counteracting the sins of greed and gluttony. Rabbi Twerski states: " One should not lose sight of the important existential statement that a b'racha expresses. Whether food is primarily physical or spiritual in nature depends on how one eats. If one eats without a b'racha and in an animalistic fashion, he denies the spiritual aspect of creation. The spiritual aspect then remains hidden and submerged. It is not brought into the open and cannot serve to elevate the spiritual qualities of the person who eats... Conversely, if one makes a b'racha with proper kavana and the eating is recognised as a facet of one's overall dedication to a Godly life, then the spiritual aspect of nature becomes primary and the physical takes on a secondary goal. The old adage that "you are what you eat" has profound meaning within Torah thought."

Many assume that Judaism is only concerned with the letter of the Law rather than the spirit. This is not so. Rabbi Twerski informs us: "There is good reason to be concerned that the act of eating may be contrary to the spirit of the b'racha...Thus, the commandment to be holy does not refer to those matters which the Torah specifically prohibits. Rather, it dictates that great care be taken in limiting self-indulgence and in dealing with that which is halachically permissible in a refined and delicate manner."

In Hasidic Judaism is found the term 'avodah be-gashmiyut' (worship or service through corporeality). This concept goes beyond the teaching of the Halakah in regards to the food laws and blessings and also beyond the other 'derekh eretz' (proper behaviour) teaching of many sages. It is a higher way of sanctifying the very act of eating itself so that it becomes part of uninterrupted devekut (Divine Union or Cleaving). The Hasidic tradition speaks of the Divine Will present in all things as the 'holy sparks'. In a sense the Divine Will is 'trapped or imprisoned in the creature and longs to return to its source. R. Jacob Joseph of Polennoye wrote: " A great principle in serving God is this: in everything, you do for the sake of Heaven...When eating, do not say that you are eating for the sake of Heaven in the sense that the food will give you strength to serve the Lord. Although this too is a good intention the ultimate perfection is for the act itself, in and of itself, to be an act for the sake of Heaven i.e. to elevate the sparks. The mystery of the Sabbath meals is known to all initiates into the divine mysteries."


Edna said...

I just came upon your blog as I was trying to understand what the "New and Divine Holiness" referred to.

I am fascinated by your blog. More comments to come.

WLindsayWheeler said...

I think you have it backwards:
Matthew, Ch. 21
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it."

It expressly states that Jesus is transferring the faith to ANOTHER PEOPLE. Another Nation.

Christianity IS a Greek/Indo-European Religion. It is not Jewish. I refer you to Jerry Dell Ehrlich's book, Plato's Gift to Christianity. I think you have it backwards. It says in Deut. ch. 28 that the Jews will be "Blinded and Astounded". It is they who have the veil and not the Christians. Christianity is SUPPOSED to be European!

Justin said...

Hey Aharon!!! I must say, I really love your blog. You really are bringing the Old and the New Together in a way that makes our hearts burn. I just have one concern with this particular post or blog. I'm just concerned that some of the ideas mentioned here might be delving into panentheism or may at least appear to, or may confuse others into thinking that. Panentheism is the idea that all things are in or are a part of God. Now I do believe, and have heard orthodox Catholic Theologian or personalities state that God constantly has us in His Loving Thoughts, or else we'd vanish out of existance, and I also personally believe that He Thinks of all matter with that same love, to benefit us as our instruments, furniture, etc., but when i went on wikipedia to look up panentheism, the "sparks" idea did pop up in connection to gnostic and manichaeist ideas. I never fully went into this research, but I just submit it to you, just in case i have a point or am on to something. Perhaps, what you were saying about everything yearning to return to its Maker works perfectly well with the idea of anima being present in everything, though not rational like the human soul. I would only ask 3 things of you after having presented this issue...keep up the amazing blogs, keep guarding your blogs in Catholic orthodoxy, and if you could, can you just flesh things out a little more...your writings are unbelieveably jampacked with info. Maybe i'm just drained. haha. Another cool thing: would you be able to explain the 4 Messiah concept from Zechariah. I know Jesus is the Messiah ben Joseph and the Messiah ben David, but who are the other 2? Also, do you ever approach Kabbalah Typologically, or Typology in a Kabbalistic way?
And one last question...how does this sound according to Catholicism and your understanding of Judaism:

The Old Covenant Sacrifices and Rituals did provide a means of entering into Holiness depending on good Kavanah, but they could never provide Salvation. They did however allow the Old Testament Church to enter into Covenant with God, and therefore form with Him a Family Bond. Sanctifying Grace was however given to those who truly sought the LORD, however, this early Grace comes in light of the Merits that Jesus Christ would win for them later on with His Sacrifice and Resurrection entering into the Heavenly Temple. Also, Old Testament Rituals dealt with the Temporal while New Testament Sacraments deal with the Spiritual/Supernatural. This connects with the idea of the Covenant Curses, for example, in the Old Covenant being Temporal, but in the New Covenant being Supernatural.

God Bless

Aharon said...

Dear Justin,

Thank you for your positive comments. It is consistent with Catholic theology that the Divine Will is present in all creation (see the writings of Luisa Piccaretta especially). the mention of the sparks is nothing to do with gnosticism but comes from Jewish mysticism. The church Fathers also spoke of a similiar concept about the sparks or seeds of truth in the pagan religions which the Church would redeem in Christ. The divine spark in all things is the hidden divine Will (which animates all things) in all things which is longing to return to its source in the Divine Will. This is the concept of giving Jesus all the glory he is due. We unite with this glory or hidden divine will (reshimu/impression) in all created things and we become its vehicle or voice for giving back to God all the glory through uniting with all creation in prayer. I have probably not explained this very well but do read the writings of Luisa for a much better understanding. I do not believe in pantheism or panentheism but in the One Creator God who is beyond time and space in Eternity who is the source of all creation which he created ex nihilio.


Aharon said...

Dear Justin,

As for your second paragraph on the sacrifices and the covenants this is a very big topic which I am unable at this time to discuss in the manner it deserves but hopefully I will blog something on this in the future. I thank you for your input and know that I am always open to correction and the opinions of others who are in tune with the church's teaching. I have no intention of meaning anything contrary to the infallible teachings of the Church.

cheers Athol

Aharon said...

Dear Justin I just wanted to add that this concept of elevating the sparks is to do with the concept of reparation (tikkun) which is a very important concept in both Catholicism and Judaism.

Justin said...

awesome bro...thanks so much. I hope my words didn't come off as causing offense. I probably didn't word things in the best way. But i love referees lol. As long as all of us Catholics guard the Garden, all's cool, and joyful freedom in learning grows. Here's another question for ya: I love Catholic Theologians like Dr. Scott Hahn...is there any orthodox Catholic Theologians out there like him that approach the Scriptures from a Kabbalistic standpoint? What resources (audio or texts) can you recommend on how to learn good Kabbalah in a way Faithful to the Magisterium of the Church? Also, I don't know if you have facebook, but my name on there is "Tsaddiyq Simchah Ben Gebirah"...i know you're probably busy, but i'd love to make yet another Catholic friend and perhaps learn from ya. Take it easy. God Bless

justin said...

Hey again Aaron. How's things? I was wondering if maybe you can help me out? Is there any orthodox Catholic Theologians out there that approach the Scriptures from a Kabbalistic standpoint? What resources (audio or texts) can you recommend on how to learn good Kabbalah, in an undangerous way, and in a way where I can best harmonize it in Faithfulness to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church? I'd love to make another Catholic friend and learn from ya. My email is justin_821@hotmail.com
Baruch HaShem Yeshua HaMashiach!